Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Philadelphia Merchant and Quaker Quilts

Center of a wholecloth silk quilt made by Philadelphia Quakers
Hannah Callender, Sarah Smith and Catherine Smith,
Dated 1761
Collection of Independence Hall
Silk wholecloth quilts were a Quaker tradition.

Quaker Thomas P. Cope kept a dry goods store in Philadelphia in Pewter Platter Alley after the Revolution. In his diary he recorded the ups and downs of retail business through wars, embargoes, aggravating partnerships and ship wrecks.

Thomas P. Cope (1768-1854) in later life
 from the collection of the
Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Like many Philadelphians he was a Quaker.

Cope made far more money from the shipping business than from selling fabric and china in his store. He became an importer, a speculator in dry goods, and built a ship to sail between Philadelphia and ports in China, India and Europe.

Detail of a pieced silk quilt by
Quaker Rachel Goodwin Woodnutt,
Salem, New Jersey, late 1820s.
Collection of the Winterthur Museum.
Quaker dress relied upon plain colored silks, a commodity that Cope and other Quaker merchants imported for their customers.

Note the complex interlocked cable in the quilting, a pattern that became quite popular with later Pennsylvania quilters. See the whole quilt here:

A month after the War of 1812 began Cope was lucky enough to have a ship's cargo released by the customs inspector. The Lancaster was carrying tea, silk and India goods from the port of Canton. "We sold the Cargo this day at public auction at a very large profit....Calicoes that cost from 5 to 7 1/2 went for 45 to 56 cts. per yard."

When I visited the Winterthur Museum for their exhibit Quilts in a Material World a few years ago I photographed another early silk Quaker quilt with similar quilting pattern.

 In October, 1813 Cope assessed the effects of the war on trade.

"The pressure of the war has been as yet but little felt by people in general. Those who had foreign goods on hand have mostly sold them at great profit, while the domestic manufacturers obtain large profits on what they make."

An advertisement from 1811 in a Philadelphia newspaper listing locally made fabrics. The Alms House was one of the public institutions where inmates manufactured fabrics. Note the "Fleece Cotton, for quilts, &c.," probably cotton batting.

The "Thomas P. Cope" by Edward Moran.

The artist and his artist brother Thomas Moran came to Philadelphia on this ship in the Cope Packet Line. This detail shows the ship on its way to Cope's wharf.

After the War of 1812 Cope's Line of Packets regularly sailed to Liverpool with passengers and freight. Once trade opened up again profits flowed and Cope began quite wealthy.

A few months after the war was over the Albany Argus advertised "Fresh Goods at Peace Prices". W.H. & J. Hoyt announced a post-war shipment of "seasonable goods, which they offer at a small advance from judicious purchases." Do note that New Yorkers were still selling slaves in 1815. In the lower right hand corner "For Sale, a negro boy, about 15."

Thomas Cope's diary was discovered in the 1930s and published in 1978.
Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas P. Cope, 1800- 1851, edited by Eliza Cope Harrison (South Bend, IN: Gateway Editions, 1978)

See a wool wholecloth Quaker quilt dated 1813, possibly made in Burlington, New Jersey in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (# 2002.012.0001)

Read Linda and Mary's blog on Quaker Quilt History here:

Another wholecloth quilt from the Winterthur collection.
See the catalog of the exhibit here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eagles Appliqued and Embroidered

Quilt dated 1808 by Rebecah Foster (detail) 
Appliqued and stuffed-work eagle.
Collection Tennessee State Museum

Eagles are among the earliest conventional applique in which the images are cut from small prints rather than transferred from a printed chintz. Eagles were popular even before the War of 1812.

An overall view of the Foster quilt. She combined embroidery and conventional applique using indigo prints.  The image is the Great Seal of the United States, featuring a bald eagle holding laurel leaves and arrows with a shield on his breast and a banner in his beak. The seal, adopted in 1782, inspired many artists.

Quilt dated 1807 by Esther S. Bradford, Connecticut,
appliqued eagle. Collection: Henry Ford Museum

A similar quilt in red and white. It's hard to believe this is appliqued, as the lines are so fine, but that's what the catalog says.
See more here:

Here's a sharper picture in black and white. The maker is perhaps the Esther Bradford born on December 2, 1782 in Montville, New London County, Connecticut, who married Reynolds Johnson on August 25, 1821 and died on December 1, 1823 in Colchester, Connecticut.

Patchwork can be considered an efficient form of embroidery. These quilts seem to be appliqued adaptations of traditional embroidery designs. The embroidered bedcover below in red and white is almost identical to the Bradford quilt

Embroidered bedcover
Brooklyn Museum
This piece was on the cover of Rose Wilder Lane's
Woman's Day Book of American Needlework

And here it is again in colored yarns in an embroidered bedcover sold by Copake Auctions.
We assume a needlework pattern was passed around or perhaps a professional pattern drafter marked  fabric.

The quilts above make good use of two fabrics---a white background and indigo or madder prints. The fabrics might be domestically produced, since these simple prints were the kind of thing American printers could do.

Eagle applique by Susan Strong Bell (1809-1875)
Collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
The catalog information dates it to 1825-1840

Susan's eagle quilt is unusual in it's use of white applique on indigo. It seems related to the earlier quilts in design and fabric use.

Eagles were such popular imagery in this early period that I have three  posts from last year on the subject

Friday, September 14, 2012

Domestic Fabrics

Here's an early Virginia quilt you may have seen displayed at the Rocky Mountain
Quilt Museum a few years ago. It's signed in cross-stitch: "Sally Lee Camden her Bedquilt"

Rusty who owns the quilt has found a Sally Lee Camden born in 1777 (or possibly 1785) in Amherst County, Virginia. Her parents were William and Sybell Dent Camden. She married Peter Dent in 1807 and changed her name to Sally Dent, so we can guess that the quilt was made before 1807. Sally died about 1850 in Bedford County, Virginia.
The Camden quilt seems to be a good example of a quilt made from domestically produced cotton prints. The simple calicoes  in shades of brown, brick red, pink and indigo blues could very well be the product of American mills.

The quilt, dated 1812, is made of similar prints

There's really no way to tell if these basic calicoes are domestic or imported but they illustrate well the kind of prints being manufactured in the United States before 1820.

Even with all the smuggling going on in coastal towns like Newburyport, Massachusetts, imported yardgoods were in short supply during the War of 1812. Searches for fabrics in the Early American Newspapers database come up with few hits for words like "calico" or "ginghams" in 1813 and 1814.

Newburyport Herald Fall 1813
Mary Jenkins had a little India Calico and some Factory Ginghams (which might have meant they were domestically produced.)  Sarah Emery remembered Mary Jenkins's store at another location,
"Mary Jenkins's millinery establishment was in her house on Water, corner of Market street."

Could this be the storekeeper's grave?
Mary born about 1746, died in 1837

Read more about smuggling in Newburyport at this post:

Women like Lucy Bakewell Audubon, living in the far west ---Ohio and Kentucky---might have envied women in Newark, New Jersey who could shop at Moses Hedden's.

Newark Centinel of Freedom

In spring 1814, he advertised a "fresh supply of scarce and fashionable Indian and European GOODS," but he was still eager to buy or barter home woven fabrics, like these wool/cotton or wool/linen stripes below.

Linsey quilt, probably pieced
 mid-19th-century or later, but how old is the cloth?


Baltimore Patriot, Summer, 1813

Small "manufactories" like that of Dupont and Company in Wilmington, Delaware, shipped "superfine cloth" to stores in Baltimore. Superfine often meant wool broadcloth but they could also be weaving or printing cottons.

DuPont also made Superfine Gunpowder.

Several manufactories advertised calico printing---meaning woodblock printing on cotton or linen or combination fabrics.

New York National Advocate, 1813

One could go to Thomas Stephens & Company in lower Manhattan and leave an order for cotton yardage or a printed shawl, which would be printed to your specifications by W. Ovington.

New York Merchant Advertiser, 1813

Competitor Anthony Jones had printed vests, shawls and handkerchiefs on hand to sell. Apparently, he had more printing business than he could handle was looking for apprentices (country boys preferred.)

For more pictures of the Camden quilt see this post:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Early Applique Pattern: Princess Feathers

Appliqued medallion inscribed in cross stitch "Mary Somerville May 26, 1818". Mary also recorded her age: 17 years old. Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Gift of Dorothy Jewell Sanders.

Early quilts in conventional applique often combined designs cut by the maker with florals and other images cut from chintz as in Mary Somerville's quilt. Her central design is what we would call a Princess Feather (or Prince's Feather---we have no idea what Mary called it)

The design is actually cut from a chintz but Mary ignored the print in cutting the whirling pinwheel and simple flowers.

In the borders she focused on the florals from the chintz, doing what we call Broderie Perse until she ran out of one design and then took up another. The final border is conventional applique, again a feathery frond. Mary's foresight in dating her quilt is evidence this rather complicated pattern was in use in the teens.

A fact that helps us date other early examples of the pattern as in this picture from the Pioneer Museum in Troy, Alabama. We don't see any furnishing scale chintz in this quilt. It seems to be smaller scale prints in indigo and madder.

Jerry Peak, the Museum's Director described this quilt in an interview.
“The oldest quilt that we have in the exhibit is a ‘feather’ quilt that belongs to the museum and dates back to 1775. It belonged to the Passmore family of the Monticello community and was made by Mrs. Sam Passmore’s grandmother in South Carolina and brought to Pike County around 1820."

Dating a quilt from a tiny photo is folly---but the family story could be accurate. There is no fabric evident later than 1800. The fan quilting looks very "Southern, late 19th-early 20th century," but it could have been quilted later.

Here's another indigo version by Elizabeth Alexander, now in the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, estimated date ca. 1830.

See more of their quilt collection here

Another blue feather in a field of stars, this one from the Kentucky Quilt Project. See the Quilt Index file here:

Here's an indigo feather thought to be made between 1820 and 1840 by Mary Hicks Stovall, born in Virginia in 1751, died south of Jackson, Mississippi in 1845. It's on display at the  Old Mississippi State Capitol and Museum behind the silver.  It has the same fan quilting as the Alabama quilt---it's probably after 1830 and not really an early quilt. After 1840 we find hundreds of similar quilts.
See the pictures here:

A medallion thought to be about 1820 from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. The fabrics look to be a madder orange with a chintz border.

A similar quilt that Woman's Day showed fifty years ago  
at the Washington family house Kenmore.

They also showed this one that became known as Washington's Plume from the collection of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

The design sources aren't hard to find. Feathers are so abundant in fancy quilting.

Here's a wholecloth quilt from the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art dated 1796.

And an embroidered bedcover from my files---the source or date quite mysterious to me, but you get my point.
For more about Princess Feathers see Karen Alexander's post here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

13 Lucy Bakewell Audubon: Englishwoman on the Frontier

In 1812 on the far western edge of the United States 25-year-old Lucy Bakewell Audubon was wife to a storekeeper in Henderson, Kentucky, a town overlooking the Ohio River. Catering to a population of about 150 people, the store began the War in precarious financial condition. Lucy's husband remembered the country was "so very new, and so thinly populated that the commonest goods only were called for. I may say our guns and fishing-lines were the principal means of our support, as regards food." The couple were happy with each other, their two young children and their neighbors, "but our sales small....[I] only now and then thought of making any money."

The green boundary line
is the western border of the United States during the War of 1812,
Henderson in red.

Surprisingly, for Lucy's husband never gave much thought to making money, the business prospered during the War. The family purchased a log home and began speculating in real estate, planning a mill and a branch of the store across the river in the Illinois Territory.

A new store in Georgetown, Kentucky in late 1813
 offered dry goods and military outfits. 
Good whiskey or home woven linsey would be bartered the same as cash.

Lucy Bakewell Audubon (1787 - 1874)
in the 1840s, soon after the invention of photography
In her log house Lucy created civilization on the frontier, presiding over a home with an extensive library, elegant furniture and enslaved servants who kept the house and worked the gardens, which had a small zoo of birds and animals John brought home from frequent hunting trips.

Mill Grove, the Audubon family's Pennsylvania estate,
painted here in 1820, is now an Audubon museum.

Lucy was British gentry, born into a wealthy landowning family. Her father inherited an estate in Derbyshire but sold everything and took his family to America in 1801 where he eventually purchased a Pennsylvania mansion. Neighbor John James Audubon, born in the French Colony of Sainte Domingue (now Haiti), refused to call on the British immigrants. "English was English with me... I wished to know none of the race." But one morning he ventured into the parlor "where only one young lady was snugly seated at her work by the fire..."

Last year this cotton dress attributed
 to Lucy Audubon was up for auction, deaccessioned by the
Anna Safley Houston Museum of Decorative Arts,
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Despite French/Engish antipathy the young couple married in 1808. They set off across Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh and the headwaters of the Ohio River, floating down the river to Henderson, an up and coming settlement.

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

The War's end in 1815 brought more success to the Audubons, but the good years were short. In the national depression of 1819 the mill failed and the Audubons lost everything, including two young daughters. John James was imprisoned for debt.

The Audubon's mill building stood in Henderson
until it burned in 1915

Audubon realized that art rather than commerce was his destiny. He earned some money with portraits but nature was his love. Until his bird paintings began to sell in the 1830s Lucy supported the family. Like many other immigrants, her European education and elegance qualified her to run a school and teach as a governess, which she did throughout the South.

Audubon's Birds of America was published
in several volumes in the late 1820s.

In 1840, prosperous once again, John James built a house for Lucy along the Hudson River.

Minniesland in 1851

Minniesland (Lucy's family nickname was Minnie) stood in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood until the early 20th century.

Minniesland in 1917, a Victorian oasis at 155th Street.

Lucy and her granddaughters about 1870

Read a book about Lucy Audubon:
Lucy Audubon: A Biography by Carolyn E. DeLatte, new edition 2012.

In September we will consider early appliqued quilts
like this one dated 1812.

In these quilts the designs are generally cut from calicoes rather than chintz. Here the
 fabric may be domestic rather than imported.

This well-worn example, signed MMT (or WWT) was sold in an online auction a few years ago.
The seller documented it nicely.